A game where everybody wins
3 January, 2012
It may be an awful word but 'gamification'—integrating video game dynamics into your digital marketing—could be a way of driving customer engagement and ultimately loyalty, says Andy Wickes
The digital world is a driving force for consumer marketing, and one that moves at an alarming pace. Gamification is one of the latest trends proving successful in engaging consumers and driving those most sought-after commodities in these challenging times: engagement and loyalty.
Chances are you have already experienced gamification online, but you weren’t aware of it. Or perhaps you just were not aware that it has this frankly terrible name among online marketers. So perhaps a little definition is required here.
Gamification is described as the process of integrating game dynamics into your website, online campaign or web application in order to drive participation. The key features of successful video games and social games are taken out of a gaming context and implemented on your website as a means of bringing that addictive and competitive quality found in online games to your site.
Take Linkedin, for example. The practice of earning achievements for completing extra stages of your profile—that is gamification. If you ever visit Nikeplus.com and create new running challenges for you or others to complete—that is gamification. If you visit Mint.Com and create financial challenges such as saving for a car or clearing a credit card, that, too, is gamification.
These early incarnations of gamification were born from the initial successes of social video gaming pioneered by the likes of Farmville and Angry Birds. Gamers become addicted to these games because of the compulsion to earn points, unlock challenges, be awarded badges, and, vitally, to brag about these achievements on Twitter and Facebook. What became interesting was that the same techniques that worked with gaming could just as easily be applied to non-gaming situations to drive allegiance and create a buzz around products or services, something that in such a competitive market can be an effective tool in helping informal dining operators drive consumer interaction and loyalty.
But enough talk. Let us consider some real-word possibilities in our specific industry to put some flesh on these bones.
One example you are doubtless familiar with is Foursquare, one of the more successful mobile “check-in” applications that uses “gamification” techniques to encourage participation. A restaurant chain sets up its various locations on Foursquare, adds any promotions that might be available such as “20% off drinks”, and then when a user “checks in” at that location, the promotion is unlocked. The more that user checks in, the more points they earn within the Foursquare world. They earn more badges, unlock more promotions, and, crucially, brag about these achievements to friends online via auto-posts to Facebook and Twitter, creating more buzz about your restaurant or pub group.
The benefit for businesses is clear. Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla, to name but a few location-based check-in apps, are already success stories in their own right. Your customers are already on these networks, and therefore the cost of rolling out these promotions is very cheap indeed. Vitally, if you can make the promotions attractive enough, you can encourage competition online, and let your customers virally spread news of their achievements to their followers/fans.
Currently what is unfolding more and more is the move to using these gamification techniques on websites, as opposed to mobile or social applications. With the ability to integrate social channels such as Twitter and Facebook into sites, you have the ability now to embed experiences into your website that your customers will engage with as compulsively as they would a video gaming experience, and, vitally, they will tell their friends about it.
Let us assume you are a leading chain of Mexican restaurants. You want to drive repeat visits, encourage loyalty among your customers and encourage word-of-mouth advocacy to your offering. Why not build a virtual Mexican Cantina on your website where you attract fans of Mexican cooking to form the world’s best brigade of chefs? Users can work their way up the ranks of the kitchen by completing various tasks, such as posting photos of dishes they have cooked, downloading money-off coupons for meal experiences at their local restaurant, watching a video, or posting a Tweet. Different achievements unlock rewards such as a “promotion”, a “badge”, or congratulations from the fearsome head chef! Vitally, we are providing an immersive experience that encourages the user to return to the site, to return to the restaurant, and gives them reason to virally market your business without your involvement.
And if you are in any doubt as to whether game mechanics can work for your brand, without the thrill of guns, spaceships or racing cars to play around with, then consider this. The most successful online games of 2010 involved becoming a nail technician, working on a farm, being an air traffic controller and ... being a waitress.
Andy Wickes is Digital Director, Jellybean Creative Solutions. See www.jellybeancreative.co.uk.